There’s a lot of articles about home brewing kombucha out there, but not many go into detail about brewing with a specific kind of tea. Today I’m going to share with you how to make kombucha with the most popular color of tea: black.
Black tea has been the go to choice for kombucha brewers ever since the drink started. It has the longest oxidation process out of any of the 4 teas that can be used to make kombucha (green, white, and oolong) and so it generally has the strongest and most intense flavor and highest caffeine content.
In this article I’ll talk about why you should make black tea kombucha, some of the health benefits of black tea, and give you my easy to follow delicious black tea kombucha recipe at the end. Let’s get started!
How Tea is Used to Make Kombucha
All kombucha actually begins the brewing process as sweet tea. Today that sweet tea will be made with black tea. But green, oolong, or white tea also work. What turns this sweet tea into the sweet and sour probiotic kombucha that so many love is a living culture of bacteria.
This culture of bacteria, known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), eats the sugar, caffeine, and nutrients from the sweet tea and produces alcohol, acids, and carbon dioxide.
The SCOBY is combined in a glass jar with the sweet tea, and once it's eaten enough sugar to make the kombucha bitter tasting, is removed and the 1st fermentation is complete.
At this point the kombucha can be drunk, but it's not carbonated or flavored yet. The carbonation and flavor is added in a second fermentation. During this stage, the kombucha is sealed in glass fermenting bottles that are filled with fruit, juice, or herbs for flavoring.
Over the course of a few days, the bacteria culture in the kombucha consumes the sugar in the flavoring and the kombucha develops carbonation and flavor. It’s then refrigerated and ready to be drunk by people like you and me!
Why Should I Make Black Tea Kombucha?
So why make kombucha with black tea rather than green, white, or oolong? Well there's a reason black tea is the most common type of tea used to make kombucha: It has a strong flavor and high caffeine content.
Black tea's strong flavor allows you to taste the tea in the final kombucha, while booch made with other teas like green and white has a much lighter taste and softer tea flavor.
Black tea also has a higher caffeine content than other teas, which is perfect for brewing kombucha because the SCOBY uses caffeine as a nutrient to stay healthy.
Plain, organic black tea is the best to use for brewing kombucha, but Ceylon and English Breakfast also work well. DO NOT however use Earl Grey or Chai since they have oils and spices that can hurt the SCOBY.
Black tea’s strong flavor and high caffeine content are so great for brewing kombucha, that most brewers who use other colors of tea for their booch will still add some black in to make sure their SCOBY gets enough caffeine to stay healthy and their booch enough flavor to taste good.
Health Benefits of Black Tea
According to Healthline.com, black tea has antioxidant properties and may
Boost heart health
Lower bad cholesterol
Reduce risk of stroke
Improve gut health and focus
All of these health benefits are in addition to those that are already in kombucha such as:
Controlled blood sugar
Should You use Tea Bags or Loose Leaf Tea to Brew Kombucha
Tea bags will work for making kombucha. I’ve used them before and made plenty of great kombucha brews, however, if you want to make the best tasting and healthiest kombucha possible, you should use loose leaf tea.
The biggest difference between loose leaf and tea bags is that loose leaf tea has larger, higher quality leaves, while tea bags are packed with tiny, broken, lower quality leaves known as “dust” or “fannings.”
The reason larger and higher quality tea leaves are better is because their large surface area and the extra space around them allows them to absorb more water and expand as they infuse, which leads to more water flowing through the leaves and bringing out more nutrients, minerals, aromas, and flavors from the tea.
The small particles of tea in a tea bag are limited in their ability to infuse by their surface area, and also by the small size of the tea bag, providing a less flavorful and nutrient rich tea.
Tea bags can be great since they are easy to use and relatively cheap. But if you’re looking to make the highest quality kombucha, with the best health benefits and taste, loose leaf is the way to go.
A $9 Pack of Lipton Black Tea comes with 312 bags. This is of course not the highest quality tea available, but will work and is affordable.
My favorite loose leaf black tea is Vahdams 100% pure loose leaf Darjeeling black tea. This tea, grown in the Himalayas, makes strong kombucha with lots of flavor and will give your SCOBY all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. You can find large bags of Vahdams 100% pure loose leaf black tea for a bargain on Amazon here.
If you plan on using loose leaf tea, you're going to need an infuser or strainer. I got my tea strainer on Amazon also. It’s made of stainless steel so it'll last forever, and has an extra fine mesh to keep all the tea inside and prevent little pieces of leaves from getting into your kombucha. You can find it on amazon here.
Black Tea Kombucha Recipe
If you don’t have some of the equipment or ingredients needed to brew kombucha yet, you can just click on the underlined item below to view my favorite one on Amazon.
You also can check out the article I wrote on The Top 5 Things You Need to Start Brewing Kombucha to learn more about each item.
Once you have everything you need, it’s time to get brewing!
How to Make 1 Gallon of Black Tea Kombucha
1 Cup of Sugar 2 Cups of Starter Tea
SCOBY Flavoring of Choice
1. Brew Sweet Tea
The very first thing you need to do to make black tea kombucha is boil 6ish cups of water. Once the water has boiled, mix in the sugar until it's dissolved. Then steep the tea bags for at least a half hour.
If you’re making a gallon of kombucha, you're going to use 8 tea bags or 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea, and 1 cup of sugar.
If you want to make 2 gallons of kombucha, just multiply the amount of sugar and tea by two.
If you’re using an irregularly shaped container, or don’t want to brew your kombucha to the gallon, you can use the numbers below.
To make 1 cup of kombucha you need:
0.0625 Cups of Sugar
0.5 Tea Bags or 0.375 Teaspoons of Loose Leaf Tea
0.125 Cups of Starter Tea
Just multiply these numbers by the # of cups of kombucha you want to make and you'll have the right amount of each ingredient.
Although a cup of sugar per gallon of kombucha seems like a lot, remember that this sugar is food for our SCOBY. In the end, most of this sugar will be eaten and converted into acids and gases, and the finished kombucha will only have 2-6g of sugar per 8 ounces.
2. Add SCOBY and Starter Tea
Next we are going to add the sweet black tea to our brewing vessel and fill up whatever space remains with water. You can use cold water to help the tea cool down faster.
Once the sweet tea has cooled down to room temperature, add in the SCOBY and starter tea.
Starter tea is just unflavored kombucha from a previous brew that will help create an acidic environment in the tea early to prevent mold growth.
If you bought a SCOBY online it will come packaged in starter tea. If you've brewed before and didn't save any starter tea from a previous batch you can use a store bought bottle of unflavored kombucha or a splash of distilled white vinegar to give the brew its initial acidity.
It’s important to wait until the sweet tea has cooled down to room temp to add the SCOBY because liquid that’s too hot or too cold can shock the bacteria culture.
3. 1st Fermentation
After the sweet tea, SCOBY, starter tea, and water have all been combined in the brewing vessel, cover the top of the container with cloth or an old tea shirt and secure it with a rubber band. This will keep fruit flies and other bugs out.
Do not seal the jar with a lid or anything airtight, since we need oxygenated air to be able to flow in and out of the container to keep the SCOBY alive and functioning.
Wait 7-10 days for the SCOBY to ferment the sugar and nutrients in the tea into alcohol and healthy acids. Remember that the longer the brew ferments, the more sugar will be eaten and the more bitter it will taste.
Taste test the brew every day with the goal of reaching that perfect sweet spot between sweet and sour. Once it has reached a bitter enough taste for your liking, the first fermentation is complete.
4. 2nd Fermentation
We technically now have kombucha, but it’s not yet carbonated or flavored. To change that you’re going to first partially fill the brewing bottles with whatever flavoring you want.
Figuring out how much flavoring to use will depend on what you're using to flavor and will take some trial and error. To start fill the bottles up a little less than a ¼ of the way with your flavoring of choice, and then adjust from there in future brews.
Once the bottles have their flavoring in them, transfer the kombucha, probably via funnel, from the large container into all the bottles.
Also save 2 cups of it for starter tea for your next brew.
The bottles with kombucha and flavoring will now sit at room temperature for 4-6 days. During this time you can make some more sweet tea and start a new brew of kombucha if you want. Then ideally, by the time you’re done drinking the brew your making right now, the next batch will be just finishing.
5. Refrigerate and Drink Up
After the 4-6 days have passed, refrigerate the unopened bottles of kombucha. The cold air in the refrigerator will slow down the fermentation process and calm the carbonation, decreasing the likelihood of an explosion when you open them.
If when you open the bottles there isn't enough carbonation, you can place them back at room temperature for a few days and they’ll resume the fermentation process and develop more carbonation.
After the bottles have been chilled, it's time to drink up! Congrats on making your very own black tea kombucha!
If you'd like to learn more about kombucha, brewing tips, and other home brewing recipes, be sure to check out the rest of my website! Have an awesome day!